The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in May quietly amended its requirement of vodka that the spirit is “without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color.” The variations may be more subtle than with other spirits, but there are distinctions in terms of flavor and aroma between vodka brands.
I did an informal vodka tasting with some family members a few years ago. Nobody was all that interested in tasting vodkas at first, but once we got going, people got very opinionated about different flavors they were picking up and preferences. (The favorite in the end was not the most expensive or exotic, but one of the more mainstream vodka brands.)
As Tom Strenk points out in the recent article Answering Vodka Calls, to better appreciate vodka, consumers need to be educated about the taste, as well as the differences between the various distillates and nuances of distillation and other production processes. Beverage directors are also going beyond the basic vodka options and showcasing unusual offerings and creative presentations.
“Vodka is a category with a lot of passion behind it,” according to one bar director interviewed for the story notes. And as vodka continues to shed its tasteless image—in more ways than one—look for an already robust spirit category to get even stronger.